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Lost and found again

The Unclaimed Baggage Center finds new owners for contents of misplaced luggage

SCOTTSBORO, Alabama (CNN) -- Did you ever wonder what happens to lost luggage?

Is it sucked into a vortex, like some sock-eating washing machine in the sky? Does it slip quietly into a parallel universe?

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Luggage isn't the only thing that turns up at Unclaimed Baggage...

There are wedding dresses...

A Norman Rockwell painting...

...and even guitars!

No on both counts. But almost as unlikely, much of it ends up in the small Alabama town of Scottsboro, at the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

Only 2 percent of luggage mishandled by airlines is forever lost or unclaimed, according to the Department of Transportation. The majority of bags, 98 percent, are reunited with their owners within five days.

For those bags that are truly lost, an airline pays out a claim to the owner, usually within 100 days of the loss. After that, if the baggage is found, it is the airline's to sell.

And it is likely to end up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, which sells the contents of those lost bags -- everything from cameras and watches to bicycles.

"We stock over a million items every year in our facilities," said Bryan Owen, president and CEO of the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

About 500,000 shoppers go there every year, attracted by the bargains.

"We price things 50 to 80 percent off of retail," Owen said.

For example, a Cartier watch appraised at $23,000 was priced by the baggage center at $11,500. Appraisers authenticate an item's worth, and there is a two-week return policy.

Think it sounds like an ideal place for holiday shopping?

Seasoned shoppers say you should go prepared. They advise doing some research on what you're shopping for before you make the trip to Scottsboro.

And, if you can't make the trip -- which is a 2-hour drive from Birmingham and about 2 1/2 hours from Atlanta -- you can shop the Unclaimed Baggage Center online at



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